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Case Keenum to the Broncos - Fantasy Spin

Despite leading the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship game, Case Keenum was unceremoniously replaced with the huge free agent signing of Kirk Cousins. Keenum immediately found a new home with the Denver Broncos on a two-year deal worth $36 million.

Obviously this is a massive upgrade for all Denver fantasy options, so we can start there. Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, and Brock Osweiler formed one of the worst QB trios in NFL history. Case Keenum has bounced around between teams for his entire career, but one thing is certain - he is a lot better than any of those three.

The question now is how big of an upgrade does this provide, particularly for Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders?

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Rocky Mountain Higher?

Let's start with Keenum himself. This can't be seen as much of a downgrade for Keenum, if at all. For a while, Thomas and Sanders were the best WR duo in the NFL. Last year, that title probably went to Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs. Keenum is no stranger to supporting two high performing fantasy viable WRs. While this is Keenum's third team in as many years, he's proven to be a highly intelligent QB with the drive and dedication necessary to pickup a new playbook quickly. We saw him going over the Vikings' playbook with his wife on the final episode of last year's All or Nothing season. I have no concerns over Keenum's ability to grasp the offense and quickly develop a rapport with Thomas and Sanders similar to what he had with Thielen and Diggs. Denver does not have a TE as good as Kyle Rudolph and their run game is worse. However, most important is the offensive line and last year, Pro Football Focus graded Denver's offensive line 23rd in the league while Minnesota's was 22nd - not much of a difference. Keenum performed well behind the Vikings' bottom third offensive line so that shouldn't be an issue in Denver. Keenum is fully capable of pushing 30 touchdowns with the weapons he will be equipped with.

As for Thomas and Sanders, any thoughts you may have of a return to the glory days of 2012-2015, get rid of them now. Both Sanders and Thomas were pretty bad values last year. That is poised to change with Keenum in town. Outside of his absurd target totals in 2014 an 2015, Thomas has hovered around 140 targets his entire career after he broke out. For comparison purposes, Thielen saw 142 targets last season so Thomas can expect that number to remain the same. The increase in efficiency, however, should be significant. Thomas should easily improve upon his 59.3% catch rate and 6.8 yards per target. Keenum's presence should elevate Thomas in both of those areas, facilitating something like a 90 catch, 1,300 yard season. Thomas has proven durable in the NFL despite dealing with nagging injuries most seasons and is a threat to return to WR1 status in 2018.

Sanders has consistently been taken later than Thomas in fantasy drafts even though he's been about the same player. Sanders' 2014 was certainly an outlier and there is no chance he gets anywhere near those numbers, but his 2015 and 2016 performances are certainly within reach. Sanders' 51.1% catch rate was by far his lowest as a Bronco. The same goes for his 6.0 yards per target. Keenum is a massive improvement upon everything Sanders has seen since 2014. A 60% catch rate while maintaining around 135 targets would allow Sanders to return to the 80-reception, 1,100-yard receiver I believe he is still capable of being.

John Elway committed numerous crimes against his franchise in 2017. He hired Vance Joseph, who looks like a complete bust of a head coach. He cut Kyle Sloter, who was by far the Broncos' best QB in the preseason, without even giving him a chance. After both Lynch and Siemian got hurt, he turned to Brock Osweiler, knowing full well what a disaster that was the last time. Elway's tenure as a general manager has been pretty bad. Signing Keenum is a great step in the right direction and it should restore the fantasy value of much of the Denver offense.


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